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Good news about the ‘spiritual but not religious’
The rapid rise of the "spiritual but not religious" crowd may not be such a bad thing.
February 22nd, 2014
09:06 PM ET

Good news about the ‘spiritual but not religious’

Opinion by Linda Mercadante, special to CNN

(CNN) -
Despite the ongoing decline in American religious institutions, the meteoric rise in people who claim to be “spiritual but not religious” should be seen positively - especially by religious people.

To accept this as good news, however, we need to listen to what they are saying, rather than ridicule them as “salad bar spiritualists” or eclectic dabblers.

After spending more than five years speaking with hundreds of “spiritual but not religious” folk across North America, I’ve come to see a certain set of core ideas among them. Because of their common themes, I think it’s fair to refer to them by the acronym: SBNR.

But before we explore what the SBNRs believe, we first need to learn what they protest.

First, they protest “scientism.” 

They’ve become wary about reducing everything that has value to what can only be discovered in the tangible world, restricting our intellectual confidence to that which can be observed and studied.

Their turn towards alternative health practices is just one sign of this. Of course, most do avail themselves of science’s benefits, and they often use scientific-sounding arguments (talking about “energy” or “quantum physics”) to justify their spiritual views.

But, in general, they don’t think all truth and value can be confined to our material reality.

Second, SBNRs protest “secularism.” 

They are tired of being confined by systems and structures. They are tired of having their unique identities reduced to bureaucratic codes. They are tired of having their spiritual natures squelched or denied.

They play by society’s rules: hold down jobs, take care of friends and family and try to do some good in the world. But they implicitly protest being rendered invisible and unheard.

Third, yes, they protest religion – at least, two types of it.

But the SBNR rejection of religion is sometimes more about style than substance.

On one hand, they protest “rigid religion,” objecting to a certain brand of conservatism that insists there is only one way to express spirituality, faith, and the search for transcendence.

But they also protest what I call “comatose religion.”

After the shocks of the previous decades, and the declines in religious structures and funding, many religious people are dazed and confused.

They are puzzled and hurt that so many – including their own children - are deserting what was once a vibrant, engaging, and thriving part of American society.

So why, then, is it “good news” that there is a huge rise in the “spiritual but not religious”? Because their protests are the very same things that deeply concern – or should concern – all of us.

The rise in SBNRs is the archetypal “wake up call,” and I sense that, at last, religious leaders are beginning to hear it.

The history of religion in Western society shows that, sooner or later, people grasp the situation and find new ways of expressing their faith that speak to their contemporaries.

In the meantime, there are plenty of vital congregations in our society. In the vast mall of American religious options, it is misguided to dismiss all of our spiritual choices as moribund, corrupt, or old-fashioned – even though so many do.

What has prompted SBNRs, and others, to make this dismissal?

For one thing, many religious groups are not reaching out to the SBNRs. They need to understand them and speak their language, rather than being fearful or dismissive.

Second, the media often highlights the extremes and bad behavior of a few religious people and groups.  But we don’t automatically give up on other collections of fallible human beings, like our jobs, our families, or our own selves.  Some attitude adjustment is needed by both religious people and SBNRs.

Finally, SBNRs need to give up the easy ideology that says religion is unnecessary, all the same, or outmoded. And all of us should discard the unworkable idea that you must find a spiritual or religious group with which you totally agree.  Even if such a group could be found, chances are it would soon become quite boring.

There’s no getting around this fact: It is hard work to nurture the life of faith. The road is narrow and sometimes bumpy. It is essential to have others along with us on the journey.

All of us, not just religious people, are in danger of becoming rigid or comatose, inflexible or numb.  All of us need to find ways to develop and live our faith in the company of others, which is, in fact, what religion is all about.

Linda Mercadante, is professor of theology at The Methodist Theological School and the founder of Healthy Beliefs – Healthy Spirit.  She is the author of “Belief without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious.

The views expressed in this column belong to Mercadante.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Lost faith • Nones • Opinion • Spirituality • Trends

soundoff (1,265 Responses)
  1. Apple Bush

    Go now and tell the fools the truth of their misplaced worship.
    Speak loudly that religion is the true great evil on this Earth.
    This Evil affects every plant and animal the Mother gave us.
    Tell them and care not if they are vulgar, for you are the light.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:53 am |
  2. michaellocher

    As a proud SBNR person, I'm perplexed and saddened by the scoffing. Some cynicism is understandable – we're a non-committal bunch by design (bound to garner cries of "flake"), and we're easily dismissed as new age relativists.

    For me, though, the designation couldn't be more truthful, sincere, honest. My rejection of religion is a thorough one, borne of my own disinterest in organized belief systems, my distrust of dogmatic thinking and those who prefer it, and my own unwillingness to put faith in ancient tribal myths. I'm a logical man; a science-minded man.

    Declaring myself "spiritual," though, is simply an acknowledgement of the whisper in my heart – a personal, private affinity for metaphysical answers; a quiet hope, inside of me, that I might encounter a grand order to things. Does that quality – which may very well be an artifact of neurology – interfere with my dedication to approaching life as a logical, science-minded person? Not in the least. Calling myself "spiritual" is simply an honest nod to my human nature.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:53 am |
    • Apple Bush

      "My rejection of religion is a thorough one"

      Then you are not SBNR. You can't separate "spiritual" from "religion". You need a new category. Just make something up.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:59 am |
      • michaellocher

        With all due respect, no. The SBNR category suits me.

        Do you have a better argument than Webster's for establishing otherwise?

        The popular connotations behind the terms "spiritual" and "religious" are overwhelmingly disparate, and employing them in this way communicates the SBNR perspective just fine.

        February 23, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          You can make up any nonsense you want. Have fun.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          "Spiritual" is so poorly defined it is essentually meaningless...

          February 23, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
        • michaellocher

          Absurd.

          When your friends argue politics, do you prohibit them from expanding their respective philosophies beyond what your 2002 World Book Encyclopedia describes as that of a Democrat, or Republican?

          February 23, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
        • michaellocher

          BlessedCheese: I agree, to an extent, which is why I feel anyone interested in making use of the term should take care to define it contextually.

          I also feel that your point undermines Apple's, though. You've widened the gap between the two terms.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          I generally think religion is a specific version of spiritual, SBNR is so ambiguous and fuzzy it useless.

          If understanding a religious view is "like trying to nail jello to the wall"...understanding "Spiritual" is like trying to nail smoke to the wall.

          And for the record I generally agree with Apple

          February 23, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          ... and without a hammer.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
        • michaellocher

          Cheese, the whole point of this dialog – from the article, on down – isn't to compare dictionary definitions. It's to examine and compare competing philosophies, in practice. I find Apple's (and your) insistence on invalidating the conversation on the basis of un-nuanced descriptions of these two words, rather than on how they're being applied, here, in a social/philosophical context, very silly.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          "It's to examine and compare competing philosophies, in practice."

          How do you compare "spiritual" when it can't be adequately defined?

          I don't have a problem with the general idea that there is much we don't know about the universe and reality, the problem is when people... 'spiritual' or 'religious'.... start making claims of "truth" that is nothing more than conjecture.... ala Deepak Chopra.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
      • MidwestKen

        @Apple Bush,
        "You can't separate "spiritual" from "religion""

        How so?

        "spir·it·u·al
        adjective
        1. of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things."

        "re·li·gion
        noun
        1.the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods."

        February 23, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          of or relating to religion or religious belief.
          "the tribe's spiritual leader"

          synonyms: religious, sacred, divine, holy, nonsecular, church, ecclesiastical, faith-based, devotional

          February 23, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          That is but one definition, words can have more than one definition.

          "of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things:
          I’m responsible for his spiritual welfare the spiritual values of life"
          (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/spiritual)

          February 23, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
        • michaellocher

          If you're uninterested in comparing these respective philosophies, you devise an intellectually lazy excuse not to do so – and Apple has chosen the laziest, silliest solution of all.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I am quite aware there is more than one definition for the word "spiritual". My argument is this:

          In my experience, people who claim to be "non-religious" SBNRs are no different than those that claim to be "religious".

          They appear to be bored and want to join a new club. They are still who they are and the definition I chose for "spiritual" is the most accurate when describing the belief system of these so-called SBNR people. I think it is BS.

          February 23, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          @Apple Bush,
          Ah, that's a different argument. Posting a single definition is not the same.

          February 23, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
  3. Aman Sharma

    Religion and spirituality are not the same. While religion has a basis in 'belief', spirituality is about neither believing nor disbelieving. Spiritual journey starts when we admit we do not know and then pursue to find the answer of 'who am I'? It is perfectly ok to be spiritual and not religious.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:47 am |
    • Apple Bush

      You are incorrect. Just look it up.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:50 am |
      • michaellocher

        Webster is irrelevant. The overwhelming connotation of these words bears different popular meaning.

        February 23, 2014 at 11:53 am |
        • Apple Bush

          I love people who just make stuff up and stick to their guns. Well done.

          February 23, 2014 at 11:56 am |
        • michaellocher

          Ludicrous retort, Apple. We're not discussing "facts" here – I'm not "making up" elements of natural law, suggesting others agree with me, and then "sticking to it."

          Rather, we're discussing matters of personal philosophy. It's intellectually lazy of you to argue that the debate is invalid because the two terms often applied to these philosophies means they're one in the same, when those who embrace them can describe them as different. But well done.

          February 23, 2014 at 11:59 am |
        • the0g0to0the0t

          If it's so overwhelmingly popular a usage, why is two people cannot seem to agree on what it means (dictionary or no)?

          February 23, 2014 at 7:34 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        "We're not discussing "facts" here "

        That's an understatement. LOL

        February 23, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
        • michaellocher

          Is there a stronger indication that someone's run out of meaningful input than a tart little "LOL?"

          February 23, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Yes, so you are wrong there, but that is ok. Just give it some more thought. Meanwhile, I insist that I am correct.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
        • michaellocher

          If you were correct, you'd have less trouble explaining yourself.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I am simply keeping my opinions to myself. We could argue the finer points all day. I will say this though, being "spiritual" is directly related to religion. Now you want to break away and call it something else. Fine, but don't lie about it.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
        • michaellocher

          I don't understand why you're unwilling to discuss how these concepts – spirituality, and religion – are applied, in practice, by people, simply because the nuances captured in those applications exceed your personal (and very succinct) definitions of these two words.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
  4. Apple Bush

    Three giants tower over their children;
    Tumbling rocks over an ancient river bed;
    Bright green moss connecting root and boulder;
    Branches reaching out in every direction to drink each drop of light;
    A spreading canopy over a pristine patch of forest, this is God’s face.

    The troll;

    frozen in time;

    squeezes through the crevice;

    now blocked by green rock and green tree;

    just as he.

    The spirit of life can be found anywhere, but the only place I feel at peace is in nature.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:44 am |
  5. Apple Bush

    I got sick and fell asleep

    I left the heater on

    I dreamed of a lake filled with prehistoric fish

    I lifted the corner of the lake and slid into the water

    I drifted to the bottom and found my life

    I woke up sweating and feeling in love

    February 23, 2014 at 11:39 am |
  6. jewishliberty

    I have yet to see someone actually define what spiritual means.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:37 am |
    • Apple Bush

      of or relating to religion or religious belief.
      "the tribe's spiritual leader"

      synonyms: religious, sacred, divine, holy, nonsecular, church, ecclesiastical, faith-based, devotional More

      February 23, 2014 at 11:39 am |
    • Aman Sharma

      Religion and spirituality are not the same. While religion has a basis in 'belief', spirituality is about neither believing nor disbelieving. Spiritual journey starts when we admit we do not know and then pursue to find the answer of 'who am I'? It is perfectly ok to be spiritual and not religious.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:45 am |
      • The Central Scrutinizer

        You are incorrect.

        February 23, 2014 at 11:48 am |
        • michaellocher

          With all due respect to the dogma of the dictionary, you're not in a position to insist that differing philosophies are, in fact, the same, merely because Webster doesn't distinguish them by name.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          What did Webster ever do to you?

          February 23, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
        • the0g0to0the0t

          "that differing philosophies are..." still philosophies. So yes, in a sense they are the same.

          I tihnk the reason so many people are throughing defintions is because everyone feels they get to define "spiritual" for themselves. Which is fine, if you don't ever want to be able to come to an understanding of just what "spiritual" is.

          February 23, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
    • Solomon Walker

      Spiritual means incorporeal or Delphic. Unseen, but palpable all the same, in cabalistic sense, that spirituality is mysterious or supernatural, existing beyond active life of the flesh. As one believes that, "Dad is on his way home from work..." as Dad usually returns each day at a particular time frame. You are unable to see Dad driving home, but you know he's on that particular path. The believe that he is driving home is somewhat a mystery as the human mind anticipates by using the internal clock to determine when or where an arrival takes place, and when Dad does arrive home, everyone is happy to greet him. Things seems a little sweeter. Similar with Christian belief in Christ – that awaits His 2nd coming in a spiritual sense.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:47 am |
      • igaftr

        except that eventually dad will not come home.

        Christ was suppsed to have returned within the next generation. 100 generations later and dad still hasn't come home.
        you'd figure by now people would see that he isn't coming.or that he never came in the first place and it was all made up myth.

        February 23, 2014 at 11:50 am |
      • MidwestKen

        What you are talking about is an expectation based on past experience, real experience.

        The second coming of Jesus is a hope based on words in a book at best, wishful thinking at worst.

        February 23, 2014 at 11:56 am |
  7. Solomon Walker

    1. Some churches engaged in criminal activity and congregants tire of seeing it, so some left the church;
    2. Some pastors are charlatans as it becomes increasingly easy to obtain a license to minister online, so that integrity is missing from the worship experience when a pastor has never attended a seminary to complete his or her advanced ministerial education;
    3. American society has still not adequately addressed the issue of domestic violence and abuse to protect persons from harm under church membership, as we saw with the Texas judge that beat his daughter, claiming that it was a part of his faith to discipline her in this manner;
    4. Ministers are mostly male and shut women out of the ministery or even from Biblical instruction as though they are inadequate teachers, unable to merely regurgitate what scriptures say to participants as the men do;
    5. Churches are blending with other denominations so that there is no distinguishability between some Protestant religions any longer, calling themselves, "Non-denominational," when people want distinctive mission statements or predictive doctrine and formal structure;

    Religion has a strange history in the United States, where courts have used religion to abuse process by and religion has used the law to harm some of its believers.

    Money is the root of all evil according to the scriptures and money is why so many churches are failing in this nation that is dually reducing God to a "higher being."

    I caution American society to remember that our ability to create life or create living cells or attempt to play God is terminable, and our scientists admit this. Probably, a better society maintains faith within its daily or weekly habits.

    Interesting how other nations have never relinquished religion from their communities and survived for tens of thousands of years.

    I'm sure America knows what it is doing. Headstrong adolescent, that it is.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:33 am |
    • the0g0to0the0t

      "Probably, a better society maintains faith within its daily or weekly habits"

      By "faith" do you mean a collection of beliefs or a belief in things unseen? "Faith" is an extremely nebulous term and means very different things to different people. Some equate it to "trust", some with a "leap of faith" necessary to believe in the supernatural, etc.

      Which one did you mean? Faith is easy to say, hard to define (or at least, get a consenus).

      February 23, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
  8. sealchan

    Here is some recent science...the concepts upon which we base our scientific understanding are deeply metaphorical (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980, "Metaphors We Live By"). It is not possible to entirely reduce economics, psychology, biology to physics because they are their own self-organizing systems (Kauffman, 2008, "Reinventing the Sacred"). For my own part I identify myself as a Christian. I build my private faith out of my study of the world and of human psychology. I have studied my dreams in an effort to get as deep an objective view on my own personal character, strengths and limitations. I have worked to find the meaning in my life and to understand how I may help others. My hope is to extend the Bible with belief inspired content that is, at its core, true to the main principles in the Bible. But along with the story of the Bible being extended, the depth of spiritual understanding must grow and the moral perspective must develop, just as it did from the Old to the New Testaments. Who am I to do this? No one. But I am doing my spiritual work and hoping that I can help others do theirs.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:29 am |
    • the0g0to0the0t

      I feel the same way about the Dune books by Frank Herbert. Though I don't endorse the new books by his son as they are uncanonical in my beliefs.

      February 23, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
  9. conceptvbs

    Science is a work in progress. The answers will always change when new knowledge is introduced.

    Religion, it seems, is a completed work. The answers are already given in a book. No new knowledge is needed as it is complete.

    Think about that.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:27 am |
    • sealchan

      Loving both traditions I have. See my other comment.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:30 am |
    • lipsquid

      This article is garbage. There is nothing in it insightful at all and they should have put "Linda Mercadante, is professor of theology at The Methodist Theological School" so I would know that it is drivel.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:39 am |
  10. internetisgay

    You ever hear girls say that? "I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual." I like to reply with "I'm not honest, but you're interesting!" – Daniel Tosh.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:26 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Or, for those willing to laff their tails off thru the long form (10 min.), there's Tim Minchin's beat poem "Storm":
         http://www.youtube (dot) com/watch?v=KtYkyB35zkk

      February 23, 2014 at 11:31 am |
  11. RichardSRussell

    SBNRs need to give up the easy ideology that says religion is unnecessary, all the same, or outmoded.

    Well, it's a simple fact that they're not all the same, but by what conceivable stretch of the imagination can it be called necessary or modern? Every one of them tries to perpetuate an archaic belief set derived using the world's worst decision-making technique — faith — and survives only because it provides a handy social outlet for people, most of whom aren't even aware of as much as 5% of what their religion supposedly teaches.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:26 am |
  12. analyticphil

    Why should I, as a religious person, be pleased that there are a bunch of flakes out there who reject 'scientism' and 'secularism' which, as defined in this article, are two 'isms' to which I am highly sympathetic. 'Religious' doesn't mean mushheaded flake. The trouble with SBNRs is that they don't kick in to support church infrastructure–buildings and their furnishings, ceremonies, and religious art. This is what religion, as distinct from 'spirituality' is all about: the physical machinery to induce religious experience or, at least, religious fun. I couldn't care less what people believe, as long as they fund the buildings and rituals I enjoy.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:25 am |
    • michaellocher

      Why is it a "problem" to you that I don't "kick in" to support church infrastructure? What possible obligation do I, who don't subscribe to your religion, have towards the renovation of your choir practice room? What have you done to contribute to the upgrades of my daughter's treehouse?

      February 23, 2014 at 11:39 am |
      • analyticphil

        Of course you have no obligation. I'm just interested in promoting my religion by advertising the goodies. We're all in the business of selling, aren't we? And I repeat, I have no interest in what people believe–which is completely inconsequential. I just want to see lots of church buildings and rituals because that's fun–not just for believers, but for all of us. Churches are public facilities that provide entertainment, like museums, libraries and other public facilities, and I'd like to see them supported so that we can all be entertained. Religion is fun! It isn't a matter of belief, but a matter of public ceremony and enjoyment for all, regardless of what they believe.

        February 23, 2014 at 9:13 pm |
  13. eudaimonia2013

    Can't find my post.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:24 am |
    • eudaimonia2013

      This was just a test to see if my posts were going through.. carry on..

      February 23, 2014 at 11:25 am |
      • otoh2

        If your posts are not showing up, you could be running into the automatic word filter here - words within words that are forbidden, like the t.it in const.itution or doc.ument... and a whole bunch of others. I can get the list of hints for you - or you can Google "CNN Belief Blog WordPress automatic filter" and find it in one of the other past articles.

        February 23, 2014 at 11:31 am |
        • eudaimonia2013

          Maybe that's what happened. I'll check it out. Thank you.

          February 23, 2014 at 11:38 am |
  14. hellodollyllama

    This article is total garbage. Spiritual people do not reject science or secularism. Another pathetic attempt by CNN to try to take the position equidistant between the truth of the left and the lies of the right.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:14 am |
    • MidwestKen

      I think the article said "scientism" not science. However, I think "scientism" is a misnomer for people who don't understand how science works, IMO.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:19 am |
      • eudaimonia2013

        Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism

        February 23, 2014 at 11:20 am |
        • MidwestKen

          Thank you, yes I understand that it is a valid word.
          I was trying to say that most uses of the term seem to be misapplied as an accusation against those who want more than anecdotes and feelings as justification for a belief.

          February 23, 2014 at 11:27 am |
    • igaftr

      "truth of the left and lies of the right"

      What are you talking about?

      February 23, 2014 at 11:19 am |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Lets not make the mistake of lumping all SBNRs together. These are individuals that have walked away from the church (in many cases) in search of something more gratifying. I don't agree with them, but I get it and respect it. Now if they would take the next step and realize there are no god(s) to commune with, they can join the cool crowd.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:20 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      We should put you in touch with the commenters who are convinced that CNN is a Commie plot with the avowed purpose of destroying America, and you can compare paranoias. I bet you end up having a lot in common.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:28 am |
  15. PsiCop

    The phrase "spiritual but not religious" is logically absurd and semantically impossible. Everything "spiritual" is also "religious," and vice versa. They're two words that refer to the same thing, which is a package of metaphysics. I get that the SBNR folks want to divest themselves of the baggage associated with the words "religion" and "religious," but that desire is not relevant to the semantics involved here and therefore is of no account.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:13 am |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Yup.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:17 am |
    • daysgoneby2

      Oh wow – you are very ignorant about both to say that. Any person seriously following God knows the difference. Religion is the dogmatic following of rituals and customs as the sole method of practicing your belief. Spiritual is about your inside – i.e. your heart soul and mind – and actually communicating with and having a relationship with God.

      For example, Jesus Christ hated religion and came to drive it out of the places of worship. Hint – Find out the difference and your life will be changed.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:32 am |
      • The Central Scrutinizer

        Any person seriously following God is a doo doo brain.

        February 23, 2014 at 11:34 am |
      • MidwestKen

        1) If you only associate religion with God and Jesus then you may not understand the word.
        2) Wasn't Jesus a Jew? Didn't He "fulfill" the law, not abolish it? Doesn't sound like hate to me.

        February 23, 2014 at 11:49 am |
        • daysgoneby2

          Jesus did come to fulfill the law. And yes, Jesus hated the dogmatic practice of religion as the sole expression of belief. You must be able to separate the two. Fulfill the law means one thing. Practicing dogmatic religion at the expense of loving God and surrendering one's heart to God means something quite different.

          February 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          "Jesus hated the dogmatic practice of religion as the sole expression of belief."

          So He, supposedly, didn't hate religion per se, correct?

          February 23, 2014 at 12:45 pm |
    • Keith

      That is not true at all, but since you are neither you are talking about things you do not know anything about.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:38 am |
      • PsiCop

        I can read dictionaries and look up definitions. So could you ... if you were willing to do so. As it turns out, everything "religious" is also "spiritual," and vice versa. Believing in angels is every bit as "religious" as it is "spiritual." Believing in a creator is just as "religious" as it is "spiritual." Believing in spirits, and even talking to them, are both just as "religious" as they are "spiritual."

        You can go ahead and call me an idiot, but if that's true, then the people who've written every English-language dictionary must also be idiots, too.

        February 23, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
        • Keith

          Religion is a practice, something that requires you to do something. You can be religious about anything, brushing your teeth, washing your car etc. Or you can have some devotion to some belief system like Christianity or Buddhism.

          To be spiritual may be something as simple as a meditation practice. You do not have to believe in anything in order to do that. There is a wide range of spiritual practices that one might do on their own that does not include believing in any of the things you mentioned.

          So, there is really no reason for you to make any kind of judgment about things you have not experienced. You do not have to believe in a creator god in order to be spiritual.

          So, with or without a spiritual life, or with or without a religious like you can be successful and happy. That is the key. If you do not feel fulfilled you might learn something about these other ways of approaching life. I wish you well. I should not have called you an id/ot

          February 24, 2014 at 8:58 am |
        • PsiCop

          Re: "Religion is a practice, something that requires you to do something."

          So is spirituality.

          Re: "To be spiritual may be something as simple as a meditation practice."

          Meditation is also a religious practice.

          Re: "So, there is really no reason for you to make any kind of judgment about things you have not experienced."

          What I have or have not "experienced" - in your subjective opinion - is irrelevant. What words mean, is relevant.

          Re: "You do not have to believe in a creator god in order to be spiritual."

          No, but some spiritual people believe in one. Believing in creators is precisely as spiritual as it is religious. No more, no less.

          Re: "That is the key."

          If someone is "happy" then they're spiritual, if not, they're "religious"? Do you seriously want to go with that? If so, are you aware that the words "happiness" or "happy" are not found in the definitions of either word in any standard English dictionary?

          February 24, 2014 at 8:42 pm |
        • Keith

          You can live in ignorance if you choose. You do not understand me or many like me because you are not interested in our truth, you only want to fit us into your truth.

          February 24, 2014 at 9:53 pm |
        • PsiCop

          Re: "You can live in ignorance if you choose."

          You can call me "ignorant" if you it makes you feel better to do so. I don't care, however, how you feel. I only care about veracity. What I said, is true. You can stamp your feet, and weep and wail and insult me ... but it remains true, regardless of how you feel about it.

          I will repeat: Everything "spiritual" is also "religious," and vice versa. It doesn't matter to me if you like hearing it, or not. Dictionaries support what I said; but they don't support what you say.

          If this bothers you, take it up with Merriam-Webster's, and American Heritage, and the rest. Go ahead. I dare you. Convince them to change their definitions to suit your subjective feelings. Who knows, they may do it? But my guess is, they won't.

          And you will remain 100% totally wrong.

          February 26, 2014 at 10:37 pm |
        • Keith

          I didn't know dictionaries could make people stupid.

          February 26, 2014 at 10:45 pm |
        • Keith

          Since you use a symbol from a spiritual practice I guess I can assume that you are just on this blog to argue with people, you really do not believe anything.

          Your last paragraph is idiotic. I didn't say anything about happiness.

          February 25, 2014 at 10:56 am |
        • PsiCop

          Re: "Since you use a symbol from a spiritual practice I guess I can assume that you are just on this blog to argue with people, you really do not believe anything."

          You're right, I have no "beliefs." I do, however, have this little thing known as "veracity" on my side. You don't.

          Your beef is with the definitions of "religious" and "spiritual" and, although you will refuse to accept it, ultimately not with me. I really don't care about that. It doesn't matter to me and it doesn't matter to other speakers of English. The only thing that matters is what words mean. And as it turns out, each and every thing which is "spiritual," is also "religious," and vice versa. Every English dictionary confirms this.

          That will remain the case, without regard to how you feel about it, and without regard to how many aspersions you cast on me because I'm insolent enough to tell you you're wrong. I get that you have emotional feelings about those words, but I no more care about those, than you care about my own feelings (given that you've insulted me multiple times so far).

          Have fun living with your "religion." Woops. "Spirituality." Sigh. So what, it's all the same thing ... aimless metaphysics.

          February 26, 2014 at 10:42 pm |
        • Keith

          You are still an idiot, and what you have is not veracity, it is arrogance backed up by ignorance.

          February 26, 2014 at 10:47 pm |
  16. gwtars

    There's one drawback of not belonging to a singular faith: "concept drift". Meaning that, without a community of people with which to practice and study with, one doesn't get the full benefit of whatever spiritual belief due to not having the opportunity of getting "the full picture". Not all of us are of brilliant minds, nor are we all spiritual giants, we are all common mortals that do not have all the answers.

    Coming from a perspective of one that has practiced Nichiren Buddhism for over 30 years, having converted in my youth, I can understand the need for many in our collective American society to seek other paths to spiritual fulfillment. However, the path of the person that has eschewed all religious organizations is one that is meandering and largely inefficient, and the unfortunate result of not of the religion or the belief itself, but of the way in which bodies of believers function within society.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:09 am |
    • igaftr

      It is far more inefficient wasting time on beliefs in that which no one has ever been able to show exists.
      100 hands in prayer, do not get as much done as two hands working.

      February 23, 2014 at 11:12 am |
    • babooph

      I am not sure if a "concept drift is bad..

      February 23, 2014 at 11:12 am |
  17. The Central Scrutinizer

    I have a friend who is a witch. Seriously, she is a real witch and at one point in her life she went to “witch” church. In time, she came to realize it wasn’t for her. She was tired of the hypocrisy, the lies, the pleas for money, etc.

    She became a SBNR and began practicing her craft alone, on the beach as the sun set each evening. Soon, she found that, while this was a better solution than church, her clothes were restrictive.

    Now she worships in the nude on the beach. She is very beautiful so it always attracts a crowd and many people would like to join her. For more information visit:

    http://www.genevievethewitch.org/beachnude/worship/photos.htm

    February 23, 2014 at 11:08 am |
  18. colin31714

    Many of the SBNR crowd are essentially atheists who still like the idea of believing in something for belief's sake.

    February 23, 2014 at 11:05 am |
  19. olsonic

    yawn.

    February 23, 2014 at 10:54 am |
  20. kyzaadrao

    Somehow I don't think CNN is in a position to tell people what kind of spiritual we should be, but thanks for thinking of our clicks.

    February 23, 2014 at 10:53 am |
    • MidwestKen

      "The views expressed in this column belong to Mercadante." – end of the article

      February 23, 2014 at 11:16 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.